Bristol launch for UK Exiled Journalists Network

3 October 2005 – More than 35 journalists from 20 countries will gather in Bristol over the weekend 7-9 October to launch the Exiled Journalists Network (EJN) – a self-help group devoted to press freedom and assisting journalists who flee to the UK to escape persecution – in the presence of Ms Bemma Donkoh, UK representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Backed by National Union of Journalists’ President Tim Lezard and General Secretary Jeremy Dear, Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and Channel 4’s international editor Lindsey Hilsum, the EJN has been set up with the help of the Bristol-based MediaWise RAM Project which aims to improve media coverage of refugee and asylum issues. The EJN plans to register as an independent charity.

The launch conference, funded by the Open Society Foundation, takes place at Bristol University’s Burwall’s Centre for Continuing Education beside the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

It opens on the Friday evening with a debate before an invited audience about how the UK media reports the rest of the world. Speakers include journalists Richard Dowden (Director, Royal African Society) and Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (Editor, ExpoTimes, Sierra Leone), and the Community Development Officer of Bristol Muslim Cultural Society Farooq Siddique.

“We have contact with over 150 exiled media workers in the UK. Too many people who have risked their lives to tell the public the truth have still not been granted refugee status,” says RAM Project Co-ordinator Forward Maisokwadzo, himself an exiled journalist from Zimbabwe. “We hope the creation of the EJN will be another milestone in the long process of defending press freedom. The EJN will be looking for moral and financial support from fellow journalists and media organisations,” he said.

Saturday sessions include workshops on career development, online journalism, media law and ethics, and training of trainers run by NUJ members and MediaWise staff. Tim Finch (Communications Manager, Refugee Council), Phil Gibbons (Project Manager of Bristol’s Radio 19), Kayse Cabdilaahi Maxed (Editor, Somali Voice), and Terry Williams (RAM Project media networks’ co-ordinator) will also outline ways in which exiled journalists can assist refugee community groups and their supporters.

The evening will see the launch of a MediaWise report on Exiled Journalists in Europe with contributions from Rich Cookson (MediaWise), Giovanni Massaro (Mira Media, Holland), Balint Molnar (Media Diversity Institute, UK) and exiled journalists from Denmark, France, Germany and Spain. It will be followed by a social event with musicians led by Alphonse Touna (Cameroon) and Fidelis Mherembi (Zimbabwe).

Sunday morning will be devoted to the election of a Management Committee, unveiling of the EJN website, and discussion of the next steps for the Network.

Forward Maisokwadzo (RAM Communications Officer): 0117 941 5889 (07967 974 744)

(Bulletin No 112)

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